PATRIOTS MOCK DRAFT 2022For many teams, a loss in the infancy stages of the playoffs quickly ushers an organization back down to earth and face to face with reality. For New England and do-it-all team executive Bill Belichick, although reality has represented more of fantasy in comparison to the 31 other franchises over the past two decades, a blowout loss at the hands of the Buffalo Bills has presented a long climb up a steep slope if the long-tenured Patriots bench boss ever looks to add further regalia to his illustrious armoire. Using our Mock Draft Machine, I looked at which prospects the Patriots could target this April when the annual NFL draft rolls around. Here is my seven-round mock, including scheme fit, on each prospect:
Round 1 (No. 21 overall): Ahmad Gardner, CB, CincinnatiWith similar measurables to that of pending UFA J.C. Jackson, if the Patriots—shockingly—were to let their CB1 walk, Gardner has the tools and perimeter prowess to immediately fill his shoes. However, I don’t think Belichick allows Jackson to hit the open market, and, instead, adds his running mate in one of CFB’s premier shutdown defenders. With aging safety Devin McCourty also set to explore free agency, inside a division touting the likes of Josh Allen and an improving Zach Wilson, they would be smart to add an alpha like Gardner to shore up the back end moving into the summer.
Round 2 (No. 54 overall): Christian Harris, LB, AlabamaHarris is a rangy ‘backer whose presence within the middle of the Alabama defense was two-fold to their success over the last few seasons. Harris would immediately become the nucleus of the Patriots’ defense. While his best role as a pro aligns as 4-3 WILL LB, Harris’ unique ability in space with flash as a pass rusher (5.5 sacks in 2021) would present an excellent addition within a team hungry for youth in their front seven. Zion Johnson (IOL - Boston College) was also high on my list here, but in this scenario, they opted to re-sign Ted Karras who played well after filling in due to injury.
Round 3 (No. 85 overall): Alec Pierce, WR, CincinnatiA 6-foot-3 talent, Pierce boasts a long and athletic frame that will make waves during the pre-draft circuit. A supremely gifted athlete who is expected to open eyes in the 40-yard dash and other short-area explosion drills, Pierce earns his money primarily within the vertical third of the field, using his straight-line speed and length to pop the seal off the top of defenses. While he needs work within the intermediate areas of the offense that he will ultimately face on Sundays, he does tout the ability to elevate and extend to work through contact, which masks his limitations as a pass-catcher over the middle of the field. With Jakobi Meyers set to enter free agency, New England has to address the position in some way, shape, or form to assist Mac Jones in year two. A sure-handed wideout who would feed nicely off of the talent around him, Pierce could be a steal here on day two. Don’t be surprised if New England kicks the tires on trading for Calvin Ridley, either.
Round 4 (No. 123 overall): Braxton Jones, OT, Southern UtahA massive offensive tackle at 6-foot-7—similar to pending UFA Trent Brown—Jones would optimally switch sides and take the spot of Brown, who could be searching for greener pastures after a mediocre end to the season and an abysmal showing against the Bills on Sunday. Jones by no means is an athletic specimen who has the ability to turn and glide in space like some of the class’s elite front-five talents, but he is the exact type of talent to enter Belichick’s regime and start for a decade. He presents a stout anchor in the pass game, and with improved body composition over time within a professional weight program, he has the chance to become a high-level tackle. His performance at the Senior Bowl will have massive repercussions on his draft stock.
Round 6 (No. 205 overall): Isaiah Pola-Mao, S, USCA developmental prospect, Pola-Mao has every tool in the bag to become an impact safety at the NFL level. At 6-foot-4, when he gets moving, his game really starts to pop as a ball-hungry defender. An outstanding athlete with an elite ball production ceiling, he provides value as both a rotational centerfield athlete and a core special teamer at the onset of his career; a must for day-three additions made by Belichick.
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